Friday, May 31, 2024

First Lines: May 2024 edition

Below are the first lines of the books I finished reading in May.  I have included 2 short stories/novellas.  I’m not usually a fan of the short story genre - they are too sparse for my liking (but ironically the sparseness makes for a great short story).  Maybe these are a bit longer than short stories.



Book 1

June 1887

I stared down into the open grave and wished that I could summon a tear.



Book 2

The Vanishing

In April, millions of tiny flowers spread over the blackjack hills and vast prairies in the Osage territory of Oklahoma.



Book 3

Dear Daughter,

This letter has taken an extraordinary time getting itself together.



Book 4

I wanted a cupcake.  I was in my late twenties and, all my other ambitions thwarted, I just wanted a cupcake.


Book 5

“a great sea A going”

Eight months of the year Hallowell, Maine, was a seaport. 

Novella 1

In a certain Russian ministerial department –

         But it is perhaps better that I do not mention which department it was.  There are in the whole of Russia no persons more sensitive than Government officials.  Each of them believes if he is annoyed in any way, that the whole official class is insulted in his person.



Novella 2

Though it was still daylight, the hot lamp was shining full-beam over the mahjong table.



The titles and authors revealed:



Book 1

A Curious Beginning (A Veronica Speedwell Mystery Book 1) by Deanna Raybourn

356 pages • first published 2015.


Started off slow.  I found the traveling circus section tedious, but then about halfway through it got much more interesting.  Character names are excellent, ex: the vicar’s wife, Mrs Clutterthorpe.  There is some tea drinking, but also other drinking and sometimes those liquid enhancements are combined with tea. 


Book 2

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, by David Grann.  

316 pages • first published 2017.

I recommend this excellent telling of a huge sad injustice in our country. The writer is an assiduous researcher.  I was especially interested that he followed up the historical story by speaking to the next generations and how the history affected their lives.  I am told the book is much better than the movie.



Book 3

Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou.

166 pages • first published 2008

This book consists of very short essays, some curmudgeonly, some with deep wisdom, from this great American poet.   I started it some weeks ago, and finished it during the “liquids only” (day before) phase of colonoscopy prep.  Strictly speaking, Maya Angelou did not have a daughter; this book is addressed to us, her “thousands of daughters” of kinds.



Book 4

Congratulations, The Best Is Over! By R. Eric Thomas

240 pages • first published 2023.

Essays.  Quite amusing and yet heartfelt at the same time.  Addresses the pandemic.



Book 5

A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.  

464 pages (main text is about 400 pages) • first published 1990.  Pulitzer Prize winner in 1991 in the History category.


I was reading this during the throes of colonoscopy prep but had to stop when I was lightheaded from the prep and the book was delving into various gross 18th century medical techniques.  About 10 days later, I resumed reading, but had lost a bit of the thread of Martha Ballard’s story because of the lack of continuity.  I’m glad I was able to finish – I found it fascinating.  More at this link.



Novella 1

The Overcoat by Nikolai Gogol (a short story)

My edition was published in 2016 by Open Road Integrated Media Inc.  No translator’s name is given.  (I always want to give the translator credit but alas, in this case I cannot.)

49 pages • first published 1842.

Perfect to read during the second and nasty phase of colonoscopy prep.  I’ve read it before, so I didn’t need to concentrate deeply.  Parts of it are tongue-in-cheek, but it is not fluffy; actually rather dark, which fit my circumstances.  I will think about the deeper meanings (which are there) another time.


Novella 2

Lust, Caution: The Story by Eileen Chang. Translated by Julia Lovell.  

68 pages • first published 1978.  Translation copyright 2007. 

Recommended by my older daughter - she read it last year in her quest to read one book related to every country in Asia.  An excellent fraught romantic/political tragedy, told in tight prose.  Has been made into a movie by Ang Lee.

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